If you were to design the perfect waterfall then Iguassu would have to be it. Straddling the border between Brazil and Argentina, where it is known as Saltos do Iguacu and Cataratas do Iguazu respectively, it comprises a range of cataracts.
One such is the Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo), w h i c h has a classic horseshoe shape and drops into a deep chasm. A walkway runs from the Argentinian side to the edge of the cataract, allowing you to stare directly at the wall of water as it drops into the void below.
The Santa Maria Cataract, which falls over the Brazilian side of the border, is interrupted halfway down by a plateau. Here the water is dotted with moss-encrusted rocks and spanned by a walkway that provides views up and down the falls and is festooned with rainbows.
Both w a l k w a y s provide an experience for a l l the senses: the endless r u s h i n g sound that grows to a roar as you approach, the sheets of cooling spray as you get closer, and the buffeting winds, caused by the great volume of water pushing the air out of the way.
The w h o l e w a t e r f a l l stretches for a couple of k i l o m e t r e s and includes many other cataracts, some approachable only by boat, others visible only from an island that sits in the middle of the river above the falls. Iguassu is s u r r o u n d e d on both sides by verdant rainforest, which has been made into two national parks.
Uniquely for the sights in this book, an early start is not required as the sunlight barely hits the lower parts of the falls until an hour or two after dawn.
While most of Iguassu is in Argentina, some of the best views are on the Brazilian side, especially at sunset. It is a simple process to cross over for the day as travel agents on both sides offer inexpensive trips.
The Brazilian side of the border is probably the least developed, and those seeking seclusion should consider staying at the Tropical Las Cataras eco-hotel. Built in a Portuguese colonial style, with some rooms overlooking part of the waterfall, and a clock tower from which you can watch the sunset, the hotel is actually inside the national park. Although there are signs warning against jaguars and snakes you can stroll down to the falls at night, when the dull roar seems even louder, and you m i g h t j u s t be able to make out the spray in the moonlight.
If you can combine your visit with a full moon there are special night visits open to everybody, and the moonlight is bright enough to make out many details of the falls.
There are flights to Foz do Iguacu, the town on the Brazilian side of the falls, from both Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Though many people do day trips from these cities it is better to stay for at least a couple of days to allow time to visit
the Argentinian side. This is very easy – most local hotels arrange trips – and you won’t even need a visa. You can also raft on the river, explore the surrounding forest and even take a helicopter ride. The Tropical Las Cataras hotel on the less-developed Brazilian side will give you privileged access to the falls – especially on Monday mornings when the park is officially closed to non-guests.